How to play

This entry is part 12 of 39 in the series Manual


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During horse-play or rough-housing, keep your head in its case to avoid injury.

It’s not play if there isn’t some risk of dismemberment.

Climb to the top of a top for a 360-degree view of the room.

Don’t let the other players know the rules, or even that it’s a game.

Meet the gaze of random strangers and whisper You’re it.

Hide without seeking. Stay hidden.

Change your mask every few years to avoid detection.

When exploring a forest, arm yourselves with silence and trashcan lids.

Monsters are terrified of chalk. They can be bribed with erasers to do anything you want.

When falling from a great height, flap your arms wildly—you never know.

Hand-puppets should never be given real mouths. They will want real anuses next.

Only an adult can legally consent to be a toy.

Blocks may be made out of anything that’s shaped like a block.

A toy with a power button is a tool in disguise.

The point of a ball is that it has no point—however it happens to land, it’s always at rest.

Cut it open and breathe its peaceful air.

Laughter is the body’s rebellion against the mind.

What’s the point of winning if you can’t suspend all the rules?

Get everyone to run in place and you can make the earth spin faster.

When you collapse, make sure to collapse in a heap.

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6 Replies to “How to play”

  1. This is a GREAT series Dave. I don’t think I’ll ever pick up a hand-puppet again without chuckling!

    Re flapping when falling. I’ve seen footage of people doing this, so it happens. But you still undercut the line with enough graveyard humour/irony to make it funny, and so it doesn’t stop one dead in one’s tracks.

    Re suspending all rules. Our friend Clarissa is the daughter of the great British painter John Piper. She told us the other evening that when she was a girl the painter Ben Nicolson came to visit the family (so… two giants of post-war British art in the room together) and seeing a table-tennis set-up on the big kitchen table said ‘Let’s play!’. However he then proceeded to dismantle the set-up, replacing the net with a sheet of glass (there’s always sheet-glass to be found in a painter’s house) and listing a complicated, never-before-heard-of set of rules, in which the ball had to be made to bounce of the thin edge of the glass with each shot in order to count. The Pipers… avid enthusiasts of table-tennis and champion players… were roundly thrashed by a smug, well-practised Nicholson, a man who didn’t like to be beaten at anything by anyone, to the point that he simply loaded any die by reconstituting the rules to suit himself! Ho hum.

    A great piece Dave. Really thought provoking. And funny!

  2. ‘Laughter is the body’s rebellion against the mind’

    I think you might be right there. Whispering ‘you’re it’ to random strangers also has an appeal…

    Can you do these as a book too?

    1. Hi Lucy. Glad these resonate for all their silliness. And sure, assuming I can keep the series going for a while, I think there’s an excellent chance it’ll migrate into paper and ebook form.

      1. Good.

        In the meantime I am writing “Laughter is the body’s rebellion against the mind.” on my work-desk white board. ~D. Bonta. Bad photo to follow.

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